Thursday, August 28, 2008

Basic Instinct for Faith

I read a really interesting article about Joe Eszterhas, the screen writer of movies like Basic Instinct and one of my all time trashy movie favorites (at least for a while), Showgirls. It seems that although Eszterhas had been riding high, making money off depicting the dark side of humanity, he knew there was a whole in his soul. Things got so bad for him that "He plopped down on a curb and cried. Sobbed, even. And for the first time since he was a child, he prayed: 'Please God, help me.'" The author of the piece likened what happened next as similar to Paul's conversion on the road to Damascus.

However, to me, Esterhas' story reminded me of Nebuchadrezzar who ruled as king of Babylon, but lost it all and was crawling around like an animal until he suddenly decided to pray to the God Daniel had introduced him to. 34And at the end of the days I Nebuchadnezzar lifted up mine eyes unto heaven, and mine understanding returned unto me, and I blessed the most High, and I praised and honoured him that liveth for ever, whose dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom is from generation to generation.

TOGA!


I just got access to the newest Obama campaign poster before his big speech from the steps of the Roman Coliseum, er, Mile High Stadium and I thought I would share it with you.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

"We should be led by Osama bin Laden, I mean Obama and Biden."

According to Charlie Wilson. Yes, THAT Charile Wilson.

Reminds me of this great clip from the formerly drunk and dissolute, now drunk, dissolute and brain damaged Senior Senator from Massachusetts: Watch!

Saturday, August 23, 2008

a/k/a Barry Obama


This lawsuit, filed in Federal Court in Pennsylvania by a Democrat no less, is pretty entertaining. It is entertaining not because I think there is much in this lawsuit on the merits, but mostly because of all the “a/k/a’s” the Plaintiff included. Barak Hussein Obama, a/k/a Barry Soetoro, a/k/a Barry Obama a/k/a Barack Dunham a/k/a Barry Dunham.

Regarding the merits of the case, Article 1 Clause 5 of the Constitution requires that a person be born a citizen of the US in order to be eligible to be president. Further, US law that the time of Barry Hussein’s birth i.e. 24 December 1952 to 14 November 1986, required that children born of a US citizen and a foreign national, like Barry Hussein’s mom and his Kenyan dad, required that that the US citizen had been one for 10 years, five years of which had to have been after the parent's 14th birthday. Of course, all this is moot if the child is born in the US, as the pregnant Mexicans desperate to drop across the Rio Grande can attest. The suit maintains that Barry Hussein. The final part of this suit against Barry Hussein and the a/k/a’s is that the evidence that he was actually born in the US is forged and in fact he was born in Africa to a US woman who was too young to have spent 5 years after her 14th birthday as a citizen in order to confer natural born citizen to little Barry.

There is also some concern that Barry Hussein maintains some kind of dual loyalty to Kenya or Indonesia, which while not technically against the law, might be troublesome in a President. This is the least compelling part of the case, since everyone knows BHO’s fiercest loyalty is to his own ambition, not to some flag or fatherland.

I think the standard of proof will be too high in this case, and I think there will be a presumption that the Hawaii birth certificate, even though many are convinced it is a forgery, will carry the day to prove Barry Hussein was born in the US, but it is an entertaining suit to be in the courts during the Dem convention.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

He's the ONE!

And I am not talking about the real one: Keanu Reeves. It's Barry Hussein!

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Dems Grok B. Hussein



At the big Triumph of the Will style rally that B. Hussein is going to have in Denver, a move is afoot to have everyone salute the dear leader with a particular hand signal (Note: not the one I would give him).

I have included a picture of some actual supporters demonstrating the new signal. "We grok you, Barry. We hope you grok us back!"

Friday, August 08, 2008

President Bush Visits Yongsan Garrison, Korea

He got an appreciative reception from the troops assembled there. TO's special Korea correspondent weighed in with the following report:

"I met The President Yesterday it was kind of neat, but a little underwhelming. I expected a more commanding presence but it just wasn't there. He appeared to be a pretty down to earth guy that you could just hang out with and shoot turtles."

I can think of no higher praise for or about any man.

Taiwan Marine Master Sergeant Completes USMC Staff NCO Advanced Course


At Camp Pendleton, good on her. Notice she is wearing her uniform, or at least a uniform. Usually, Taiwanese have to wear a suit or some other civilian clothes when they come to Marine Corps courses. I really like the fact that the Marine Corps has allowed the Taiwanese to wear a uniform while they are training. I am more heartened by this, than any of the saccharine stories coming out of Beijing during the Olympics.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

China’s Influence on Post-Cold War North Korea: The Whale and the Shrimp

Kim Il Sung’s demise and the crushing of the communist coup against Yeltsin in Russia following soon after left North Korea without its founder and without its major benefactor. China stepped up to support Kim Jong Il, ostensibly out of socialist solidarity but probably because neither has many other options. Both countries suffer from poor relations with other countries in the world. China is a feared bully in the region and North Korea is a reckless pariah. “Arguably China and North Korea cling to each other because they have nowhere else to turn―each believes that close cooperation with the other is vital to its own national security.” 1

The official Chinese line is that China and North Korea are as close as brothers, each relying on the other. “China needs peace and stability along its border, in order to ensure its rapid modernization. Likewise, the DPRK needs China’s cooperation, in order to press ahead with its socialist construction. Since both countries need each other for these economic and social purposes, stronger bilateral relations are inevitable. 2 The reality is that China perceives the need for North Korea to serve as a buffer against the forces of the United States and Japan. “With a shared border of 1,400 kilometers, North Korea acts as a guard post for China, keeping at bay the tens of thousands of U.S. troops stationed in South Korea. This allows China to reduce its military deployment in Northeast.” 3 China places great value on this buffer, but North Korea has not always reciprocated this feeling or had much appreciation for being such a buffer.

 Nonetheless, circumstances have thrown China and North Korea together, and now the world looks at them as big brother and little brother. With North Korean leadership’s apparent recklessness and willingness to engage in brinksmanship, diplomats have striven to leverage what influence can be brought to bear on the actions of the DPRK. This paper will examine how China came to be perceived as the one country in the world with influence over North Korea and whether this perception comports with reality.  

 

North Korea’s traditional patron had been the Soviet Union. After World War II, with China exhausted from the long running battle with Japan and a crushing civil war, Stalin saw an opportunity to grab part of the peninsula at relatively little cost. Why this particular conflict mattered to Stalin is unknown, but eventually it paid off richly for him and the Soviet Union. 4 Stalin permitted the establishment of a proxy force led by Kim Il Sung to rule the area and to be beholden to the Soviet Union. Kim Il Sung, by his good fortune and loyal service to the Soviet Union was installed almost by accident as leader of newly liberated North Korea in early 1946. However, the real power remained in the hands of the Soviets. “The Soviet authorities and the apparatus of advisors had a decisive influence on the life of the country and in the first years of the DPRK, Kim was only nominally ruler.” 5

Kim shrewdly assessed his position and eventually seized the opportunity that he was presented to consolidate his rule in Stalinist fashion he had been taught during his time as and officer in the Soviet Army. After the indecisive Korean War, when the frontier had returned to its antebellum approximation, Kim purged his government of potential rivals and began to play the Soviet Union and China off one another, first tilting towards one, then the other. 6 Kim proved quite adept at this type of stratagem and eventually became a willing participant in the Soviet’s Cold War against the West. In return, the Soviet Union provided material goods and energy to the North Korean economy. “The Soviet Union supported North Korea with massive military and technical aid, but after the Cold War, North Korea lost this support, and its economy seriously deteriorated.” 7 With the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, North Korea’s most powerful friend and the basis for their economy suddenly went away.  

With the loss of the Soviet Union, Kim was forced to find another patron to prop up his decrepit economy. Lacking any other really options, he solicited China for support. This was a problematic strategy because Kim and many North Koreans believed that with the opening towards the US and the recognition of South Korea, Chinese had committed a serious affront. In the words of a Chinese analyst, the Chinese “betrayed them [North Korea]. We [the Chinese] embraced the U.S. and the enemy in the South.” 8 This betrayal was a particularly bitter one for Kim and North Korea. Kim had sought desperately to prevent China from recognizing South Korea but when his efforts came to naught, “North Korea accepted the blow with official silence.” 9 Kim was forced to bear his betrayal in silence and find some accommodation with the Chinese because he was out of options. The economic situation was dire, with many observers reporting that North Koreans were starving to death. “By the end of 1992, the North Korean government began to impose strict limits on food consumption, limiting individual intake to one-fourth of basic requirements.” 10

The degree to which Kim Il Sung was willing to put aside his historical wariness towards the Middle Kingdom and his bitterness at the recognition of South Korea in order to adopt a conciliatory attitude towards China was an indicator of how perilous the economic and political situation of North Korea actually was. The North Korean people were starving and the world was alarmed at North Korea’s pursuit of a nuclear weapon. North Korea needed friends but there always existed a concern that North Korea would turn on those who tried to help them. China seemed poised to move into the vacuum created by the dissolution of the Soviet Union, but remained somewhat wary. An observer noted that “nobody has a greater knack [than North Korea] for alienating friends and enemies alike.” 11 Even with their dire economic and political situation, North Korea continued to pursue their own policies even when those policies gave headaches to the Chinese leadership. Nonetheless, China continued to shield North Korea. China’s reason for doing so involved internal calculations about their own political requirements.  

Lord Palmerson, British Prime Minister, in a speech to Commons in 1848 noted that “We have no eternal allies, and we have no perpetual enemies. Our interests are eternal and perpetual, and those interests it is our duty to follow.” 12 In slightly less elegant prose, China expressed the same sentiment: “The fundamental basis for the formulation of China’s national defense policy is China’s national interests… China takes all measures necessary to safeguard its national interests.” 13 China’s overriding interest has always been security. Even the nickname for China, “the Middle Kingdom” implies that there are areas on the periphery that serve to impede invaders before they can get to the vital, center of the nation. Korea has historically been one of those buffers, serving to keep the Japanese away and more recently, keeping the Americans away. In the estimation of most observers, the status quo on the peninsula which features a stable North Korea balancing South Korea to be the best possible buffer and one that best serves China’s interests. Later, we will examine whether a tranquil Korea is truly in China’s interest in their own estimation.

Another of China’s interests has traditionally been not to become entangled in alliances which might reduce their freedom of maneuver. Ironically, the only formal bi-lateral alliance China has is with North Korea, the Treaty of Friendship, Co-operation and Mutual Assistance Between the People's Republic of China and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea signed in 1961. 14 China generally does not attempt creative or risky diplomatic gambits and is extremely risk adverse when it comes to international relations. China is not above bullying or bluster, but they have little stomach for confrontation with the US. 15 Some of this risk aversion towards confrontation with the US lies in the fact that China lost more than 800,000 troops in the Korean War against American forces. 16 Of late, China has observed the US military fight and win battles year after year while the People’s Liberation Army has done little more than line its own pockets with business ventures. It is likely that the Chinese leadership has assessed that they are as likely to experience a humiliating defeat at the hands of the Americans as they are to win such an encounter.

This does not mean that China is unwilling to contest areas where they feel their national interests are in the balance. Although China is risk adverse, they are nonetheless still willing to commit overwhelming force when they feel that their core interests are threatened by some outside aggressor. The most obvious example of this was the willingness to commit millions of troops and to take frightful numbers of casualties, to prevent the US from entering China during the Korean War. China sees its buffering areas, Korea, Manchuria, Western China and Tibet, as tripwires, encroachments on which are signals to act. The reason that China was willing to suffer almost a million casualties was the specter of the well trained and equipped US army pushing into traditional Chinese lands over the Yalu River. Chinese commitment of troops showed dramatically “the sensitivity of the Chinese to any encroachment on their borderlands, their buffers, which represent the foundation of their national security.” 17

 Similarly, Chinese diplomats will expend political capital and will make daring diplomatic gambits when the Chinese leadership estimates that there is a significant threat to Chinese sovereignty. The last such bold diplomatic initiative occurred in 2003. China assessed that President Bush was unpredictable and likely to attack North Korea as he had Iraq. “The Chinese leader reportedly was alarmed that U.S. military action against North Korea might be imminent in the aftermath of Iraq and believed Beijing had to act promptly to avert war on the Korean Peninsula.” 18

The combination of North Korea’s desperation and China’s alarm at the intentions of the United States on the Korean peninsula might suggest that the two neighbors along the Yalu River would be find their diplomatic interests to be aligned. Conventional wisdom has long accepted that China has some influence over North Korean foreign policy. There are literally hundreds of web pages listed when one types “China’s influence over North Korea” into an internet search engine. However, savvy observers have learned to be cautious about observing “2+2” with regards to China and North Korea and assuming “4.” There remains much about North Korean and Chinese decision-making and internal political calculation that is unknown, especially in the aftermath of the death of Kim Il Sung and the dissolution of the Soviet Union.  

Circumstances would seem to indicate that China should have influence on North Korean policies perhaps in moderating some of North Korea’s brinkmanship. However, North Korea has been stubbornly resistant to this supposed Chinese influence. There are competing hypotheses about what is actually going on in this relationship. One is that North Korea is stubbornly contrarian, doing the opposite of what China has urged in order to exemplify North Korean commitment to “juche” or “self-reliance.” Alternately, it is possible that China is not actually trying to influence North Korean behavior in any tangible way because of fear on the part of the Chinese that they worry that they actually do not have any influence over Kim so they are not willing to risk doing anything. The last and perhaps most worrisome explanation of the circumstances is that North Korea is actually doing EXACTLY what China wants. North Korea keeps the US, South Korea and Japan off balance by appearing reckless and unreasonable and this allows China to appear statesmanlike and reasonable. Further, North Korea’s alarming behavior encourages the other participants in the Six Nation Talks to more readily accede to North Korean (and, as the theory goes, Chinese) demands.  

Let us examine the evidence for each hypothesis in turn. One explanation for North Korea’s stubborn resistance to China’s influence is that for die-hard communists, political concerns are more important than economic leverage, even for an impoverished economic basket-case like North Korea. In other words, ideology trumps all other considerations. Professor Yan Xuetong of Qinghua University in Beijing argued that even though economic ties have increased between the countries, political ties have remained strained. "This is a common phenomenon after the Cold War. Economic relations don't necessarily mean that the political relations of the two countries will be good or one has more political influence on the other." 19 
For some, the evidence of this lack of influence is apparent. The chief negotiator for the US in the Six Party Talks expressed surprise at the lack of respect and ingratitude that North Korea showed to the Chinese: 

I don't know about the Chinese people, but I would have been a little surprised to have seen a senior Chinese delegation go to Pyongyang with a rather fair request and to see the DPRK not receive the delegation at an appropriate level. 
And what was interesting was, of course, at about the same time there was a DPRK delegation in Beijing that was received at an appropriate level. Your President who's a very busy man, who has -- your President has worldwide responsibilities, and without stretching the imagination too much, I suspect he has more responsibilities than Kim Jong-Il does. And yet he found time to meet with the DPRK delegation and Kim Jong-Il did not find time to meet with the Chinese delegation. 20

Whether this lack of respect for Chinese views is childish ingratitude, reliance on juche or just hardball international socialist politics is probably unknowable, but for many observers, there is a clear lack of influence on the part of China over North Korea.

 Others are not so sure that China is actually doing anything to influence North Korea. This theory is that given Chinese geopolitical situation and ingrained North Korean intransigence, there does not appear to be any room for Chin to exert influence. North Korea’s own unique approach to diplomacy makes it problematic for anyone, including their ostensibly close ally, China, from having any influence on the Hermit Kingdom. Since China is closest to the situation it recognizes its own limitations. There is a risk that by over-pressuring North Korea, China would cause a backlash of resentment and perhaps create an unpredictable and dangerous enemy on their doorstep. 21 Conversely, if China were to attempt to pressure North Korea and be simply ignored this would make China seem ineffective and week. Christopher Hill’s emphasis in the quote above about Kim’s snub of the Chinese delegation was playing on this perception. Rather than be seen as ineffective, the Chinese leadership prefers to do as little as possible while appearing engaged and concerned. Observers call this the “mini-maxi principle,” with China trying to maximize the credit they receive for the appearance of effort, while actually doing the minimum possible. 22 Doing nothing because they have no real influence is thus turned into a net plus for the Chinese.  

 For others observers, China is pursuing a realpolitik advantage against their rivals in North East Asia. Regarding the geo-political situation, China is best served by North Korea keeping the other four member of the Group of Six off balance. Perhaps not coincidentally, the Chinese leadership sees these other countries as China’s main competitors in the world. To the extent that the US, Russia, Japan and South Korea must scramble to react to the latest North Korean provocation, China reaps the benefits. It is possible that instead of China attempting to moderate the excesses of the North Korean, China is actually encouraging and exacerbating North Korean unpredictability because of the consternation and distraction it represents to China’s rivals. In the zero sum game of balance of power politics, a disadvantage to China’s rivals represents an advantage to China, an advantage that China readily seizes. Although conventional wisdom may see that China would benefit from a peace and tranquility on the Korean peninsula, China’s perception may be very different. 

 The lack of real information out of either Beijing or Pyongyang makes it possible that any or all of the dynamics outlined above are at work at any given time. There also exists the possibility that none of these scenarios represents reality since all assume a high level of shrewdness and coordination between powerful leaders on both sides that probably has not existed since the passing of Kim Il Sung and Stalin. The two countries’ close proximity and similar socialist governments had made it easy to assume there is close coordination between the two. However, North Korea, known as a “shrimp among whales,” 23 has become adept at keeping all sides off balance. It is quite difficult to ascertain how much influence is wielded by anyone and on whom.  

Notes:
1. Scobell, Andrew. China and North Korea: From Comrades-in-Arms to Allies at Arms’ Length (Carlisle, PA: Strategic Studies Institute) 2004, p 28.
2. Xiao Zan, “Beijing and Pyongyang Get Closer,” Beijing Review, September 27, 2001, pp 9-10.
3. Shen Dingli, “North Korea’s Strategic Significance to China,” China Security, Autumn 2006, p 20.
4. Friedman, George. “The Geopolitics of China: A Great Power Enclosed” Stratfor Reports, 12 June 2008.
5. Lankov, Andreń≠ Nikolaevich. From Stalin to Kim Il Sung: The Formation of North Korea (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press) 2002, p 59.
6. Oberdorfer, Don. The Two Koreas (Basic Books) 2001, p 10.
7. Center for Non-proliferation Studies, “North Korea,” WMD 411, no date, at http://www.nti.org/f_WMD411/f2d1.html accessed 20 July 08.
8. Hutzler, Charles and Gordon Fairclough, “The Koreas: China Breaks With Its Wartime Past,” Far Eastern Economic Review, August 7, 2003, p. 27.
9. Oberdorfer, ibid, p. 248.
10. Ahn, Ilsup. “North Korea Human Rights Crisis and Christian Response: A Korean American Perspective” unpublished paper presented to the Samford University Christianity and Human Rights National Research Conference, 11-14 Nov 2006 at http://www.samford.edu/lillyhumanrights/papers/Ahn_North.pdf accessed 20 July 2008, pg 8.
11. Eberstat, Nicholas. “Reckless Driving” Time Magazine, M ay 5, 2003 at http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,449513,00.html accessed 20 July 2008.
12. Hansard, Thomas Curson. Hansard's Parliamentary Debates (London: G Woodfall and Son) 1848, Pg 122.
13. Information Office of the State Council of the People's Republic of China. “China's National Defense in 2002,” Xinhua Net at http://news.xinhuanet.com/zhengfu/2003-02/27/content_748657.htm accessed 20 July 08.
14. Peking Review, Vol. 4, No. 28, 1961, p. 5.
15. Scobell, ibid, p. 31.
16. Zhang Aiping, Chief Compiler, Zhongguo Renmin Jiefang Jun [China’s People’s Liberation Army] Vol. 1, Contemporary China Series, Beijing: Dangdai Zhongguo Chubanshe, 1994, p. 137.
17. Friedman, ibid.
18. Scobell, ibid, p. 21.
19. Newhouse, Barry. “China's Influence Over North Korea in Question” Voice of America website 27 July 2006 at http://www.globalsecurity.org/wmd/library/news/china/2006/china-060727-voa01.htm accessed 20 July 2008.
20. Hill, Christopher. “Foreign Press Center Briefing” State Department East Asia Update July 21, 2006 at http://fpc.state.gov/fpc/69311.htm accessed 21 July 2008.
21. Scobell, ibid.
22. Kim, Samuel S. The Two Koreas and the Great Powers. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press) 2006, p 61.
23. Snyder, Scott. Negotiating on the Edge (Washington: United States Institute of Peace Press) 1999, p20.

Bibliography
Ahn, Ilsup. “North Korea Human Rights Crisis and Christian Response: A Korean 
American Perspective” unpublished paper presented to the Samford University Christianity and Human Rights National Research Conference, 11-14 Nov 2006 at http://www.samford.edu/lillyhumanrights/papers/Ahn_North.pdf accessed 20 July 2008.

Center for Non-proliferation Studies, “North Korea,” WMD 411, no date, at 
http://www.nti.org/f_WMD411/f2d1.html accessed 20 July 08.

Eberstat, Nicholas. “Reckless Driving” Time Magazine, M ay 5, 2003 at 
http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,449513,00.html accessed 20 July 2008.

Friedman, George. “The Geopolitics of China: A Great Power Enclosed” Stratfor 
Reports, 12 June 2008.

Hansard, Thomas Curson. Hansard's Parliamentary Debates (London: G Woodfall and 
Son) 1848.

Hill, Christopher. “Foreign Press Center Briefing” State Department East Asia Update 
July 21, 2006 at http://fpc.state.gov/fpc/69311.htm accessed 21 July 2008.

Hutzler, Charles and Gordon Fairclough, “The Koreas: China Breaks With Its Wartime 
Past,” Far Eastern Economic Review, August 7, 2003.

Information Office of the State Council of the People's Republic of China. “China's 
National Defense in 2002,” Xinhua Net at http://news.xinhuanet.com/zhengfu/2003-02/27/content_748657.htm accessed 20 July 08.

Kim, Samuel S. “The Making of China’s Korea Policy in the Era of Reform ,” in David L. 
Lampton, ed., Chinese Foreign and Security Policy in the Reform Era (Stanford: Stanford University Press) 2001.

----- The Two Koreas and the Great Powers. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press) 
2006.


Lankov, Andreń≠ Nikolaevich. From Stalin to Kim Il Sung: The Formation of North Korea 
(New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press) 2002.

Newhouse, Barry. “China's Influence Over North Korea in Question” Voice of America 
website 27 July 2006 at 
http://www.globalsecurity.org/wmd/library/news/china/2006/china-060727-voa01.htm accessed 20 July 2008.

Oberdorfer, Don. The Two Koreas (Basic Books) 2001.

Peking Review, Vol. 4, No. 28, 1961.

Scobell, Andrew. China and North Korea: From Comrades-in-Arms to Allies at Arms’ 
Length (Carlisle, PA: Strategic Studies Institute) 2004.

Snyder, Scott. Negotiating on the Edge (Washington: United States Institute of Peace 
Press) 1999.

Shen Dingli, “North Korea’s Strategic Significance to China,” China Security, Autumn 
2006.

Xiao Zan, “Beijing and Pyongyang Get Closer,” Beijing Review, September 27, 2001.

Zhang Aiping, Chief Compiler, Zhongguo Renmin Jiefang Jun [China’s People’s 
Liberation Army] Vol. 1, Contemporary China Series, Beijing: Dangdai Zhongguo Chubanshe, 1994.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Relative Costs of America's Choices in Korea

Cha and Kang identify six strategies for engaging North Korea. These six strategies include 1) robust defense and deterrence against the North, 2) trilateral coordination between Seoul, Washington and Tokyo on any action that takes place and 3) a continuation of the sunshine policy of family and cultural exchanges between the North and South. Cha and Kang also advocate 4) continuing unrestricted food aid to the North, 5) encouraging China to use their leverage on the North and 6) making it clear that retaliation for bad behavior on the part of the North Koreans would be swift. Before I can answer the question of which of these strategies would be least costly to the US, I must first compare the absolute cost of each.

For the US, participating in the robust defense against the North is just a small marginal cost on the overall defense budget. There are only approximately 30,000 troops stationed in the ROK, a significant portion of whose billeting and upkeep is paid for by South Korea. The attack aircraft and bombers that support the troops have other missions in addition to the South Korean mission and the remaining of the US Armed Forces that remain on call all have other missions as well. If Korea suddenly became a non-issue, the US would not see much savings because the cost, at the margin, for South Korean defense assistance is not that great, given the myriad of other defense responsibilities the US has in the region and around the world.

Trilateral coordination is another policy that does not cost anything at the margins. Already, the US, Korea and Japan are robust political allies and trading partners with massive positions in each other’s economies. Since there are numerous engagements on many different levels among all three countries, keeping North Korea on the agenda represents a policy of almost no recognizable cost to the United States. The benefit is quite substantial to this type of collaboration since South Korea and Japan recognize a North Korea to be a much more compelling threat that does the United States. Yet, since the US is willing to engage in and be an active part of the strategy to deal with the problems, South Korea and Japan are very grateful for the assistance. That gratitude is expressed through support of other US initiatives and requirements around the world that Japan and the ROK would not be a part of, except for their relationships with the US. For instance, both the ROK and Japan have been part of the coalitions in Iraq and Afghanistan and have provided aid in reconstruction. Certainly, neither nation would have, had it not been for their relationships with the US.

The sunshine policy is another area virtually without cost to the United States. The US itself uses cultural engagement with enemies. In fact, at the time of this writing, the Iranian Olympic basketball team is traveling the US playing tune-up games against American competition prior to the Olympics. The cost to this type of engagement is negligible, and the exchanges are important to Koreans on both sides of the DMZ. How tangible the benefits are to such exchanges is difficult to ascertain, but since there is not downside, other than the potential for espionage, which exists anyway, these exchanges represent a low to no cost advantage to the US. 

Unrestricted food aid is a costly endeavor for the United States. With world population increasing and domestic US demands for bio-fuels increasing as well, the absolute value of US food stocks increases with its scarcity. The US government must pay for food that it then distributes to an enemy without requiring payment. Since North Korea is relieved of the responsibility to feed itself, it then has more resources to direct towards its nuclear and conventional forces. So, the US faces a situation in which the US taxpayer subsidizes the nuclear program of the North Koreans. This policy of food aid thus represents an enormous direct cost to the US and an even larger diplomatic and military cost since the improved North Korean forces continue to represent a threat that the US is supporting.  
 
Encouraging China also has hidden costs for the US. China is a ruthless bargainer and does not sell its supposed influence in North Korea for free. China demands concessions in other areas, like eliminating freedom of navigation transits in the Bohai Gulf, reducing engagement with Taiwan and eliminating Western criticism of Chinese atrocities inside the Middle Kingdom and in Africa. Also, the food aid that the West provides North Korea relieves China of some responsibility to feed and house economic migrants. Although encouraging China has many costs, there do not seem to be many tangible benefits from Chinese engagement with the North Koreans which suggests one of two things. Either China does not have any influence with North Korea, making any cost to the US simply not worth it at all. Or, China takes what the US and the West offers, and does not utilize the leverage it actually does have, making the US a sucker in the bargain.  

Blustering threats about retaliation directed towards North Korea have an enormous cost to the US. Idle threats discount American credibility and encourage bad behavior on the part of the North Koreans. Further, threats that are not carried out make the whole rationale for maintaining US forces on the peninsula moot. If the US is not going to use the forces arrayed there, then the cost of maintaining those forces, albeit marginal, is not worth it. Similarly, making threats that are not carried out encourages North Korea to continue pushing the frontier on what it can get away with. North Korea detonates a nuclear weapon, exports drugs to the US, and engages in massive state supported currency counterfeiting, yet the US never acts in response. The cost of idle American threats goes up as North Korea continues to engage in behaviors that should provoke a response of the US, but do not.

The most costly engagement strategy for the US is the policy of unconditional food aid to the North. The raw cost and the subsidy from the American taxpayer to the North Korea war machine make it doubly expensive. Clearly, the least costly engagement strategy for the US is the sunshine policy. People chatting, singing together and competing in tae kwon do is cost free, and has the potential, as yet unrealized, of actually bringing an end to the standoff on the peninsula.

North Korea's Early 90's Nuclear Program

North Korea’s nuclear program and the crisis that arose in the early 1990’s should be seen in the geopolitical context of the time. Many different influences were coming to bear on North Korea during this time. 1) The Soviet Union had broken apart, and the remaining states were virtually bankrupt. 2) Even prior to the breakup, Gorbachev was wooing the South Koreans in order to gain capital resources for his own economy, which proved to be an alarming development to the North Koreans. 3) China was making overtures to South Korea as well, in order to gain access to their capital and markets. 4) The US viewed the breakup of the Soviet Union and looked forward to a break in the international diplomatic tension that had existed since the beginning of the Cold War. In fact, some analysts were talking about the end of the Soviet Union and the Cold War, meant essentially “the end of history.” Without the
US actively engaged, there would be little reason for anyone else to pay attention to North Korea and their needs. I will examine each of these factors in turn.

 45 years of a command economy and the accelerated arms race with the US during the Reagan years essentially bankrupted the Soviets. The size of the Soviet Economy and the deprivation that they forced their people to endure did provide for some measure of capital that the Soviet Union distributed to other Communist countries and proxies around the world in an attempt to spread Communist hegemony and push back US interests. However, this policy proved unsustainable as the US economy and defense budgets continued to grow even though the US was aggressively countering the USSR around the world and continuing to upgrade its conventional and nuclear forces. Gorbachev had learned his lesson about the inability of communism to keep up with the West and attempted various political and economic reforms to stimulate the economy. However, he essentially let the “Freedom genie” out of the bottle. Soon events took a course of their own, with the former Warsaw Pact asserting their own destinies which culminated in the tearing down the Berlin Wall. As the empire of the Soviet Union, there was no longer any rationale to support client states all over the world, so these clients were cut off. North Korea clearly felt threatened by not having their long-standing ally to support them against a resurgent South Korea and the might of the US stationed literally across the DMZ.

Even prior to the formal dissolution of the Soviet empire, Gorbachev was running around the world, offering to reduce tensions in exchange for capital. South Korea proved to be an eager audience for this approach. So even prior to the formal cutting of ties with North Korea because there was no longer a geopolitical justification for the Soviets to maintain their empire, the Soviet Union had turned to the South Koreas for capital and markets. North Korea attempted to counter this diplomatically with appeals to the brotherhood of socialism but was forced to confront the fact that ideological purity could not compete with capitalism. Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il realized that North Korea could not rely on anyone else to provide their security, they would have to provide security for themselves.

China was also looking to the South Korea for money and markets and proved quite willing to throw North Korea aside to gain access to the ROK. Once again, even though the North Koreas appealed to socialist solidarity and shared enmity with South Korea and the US, the Chinese believed they needed South Korea to continue growing their economy. North Korea had their paranoid suspicions about being unable to rely on any one else for their security confirmed.
 
Victory in the Cold War lead many in the US to hope for a reduction in tensions around the world and a “peace dividend” that would allow political leaders to focus on domestic priorities. American leaders eagerly looked forward to the time when they would not have to think about and fund the responses to crises around the world. For North Korea, being ignored by the US would be s very dangerous thing. As the balance of power had shifted on the peninsula, the ROK army had developed capabilities in training and materiel that made them at least the equal of the DPRK in conventional forces. The lack of resources had caused the forces in the North to deteriorate relative to those in the South. The trends in that equation would continue to favor the South Koreans until the South had an overwhelming advantage. Given that eventuality, North Korea knew that the one safeguard they had to prevent the ROK from rushing North to finish the Korean War was the presence of the Americans. If the Americans lost interest in the Korean situation, seeing it as a vestige of a Cold War that had ended, then there was a significant chance the US would pull out. 

Such a withdrawal, blowhard KCNA pronouncements notwithstanding, would be extremely perilous for the North. Even short of an attack by the South, should the US pull out, there would be very little leverage to get the US back into negotiations for economic incentives . Given these considerations, since Kim Il Sung and Kim Jung Il were not willing to capitulate or make total accommodation with the South, the only logical course of action remaining was to build a nuclear weapon. Conventional wisdom has long held that states with nuclear weapons are immune from conventional attacks and that they get attention from great powers. North Korea’s overt pursuit of a nuclear weapon and the crisis it provoked bore out this wisdom. North Korea managed to get massive infusion of aid to stave off starvation, acquired capital from the South Koreans and kept the US engaged on the peninsula. The significance of the North Korean nuclear program which it pursued out of self interest showed other countries that having nuclear weapons is the best way to prevent regime change by the West. It is apparent that Pakistan, Iran and perhaps even Syria have learned this lesson.